Monells, a journey back to the 10th century in the heart of Girona

Monells is a small medieval village located in the province of Girona. It is located in the region of Baix Empordà, in the middle of the Gavarres Natural Park and very close to the Costa Brava. It is a town with a lot of history, a lot to teach and a very special charm. It has ended up being, in short, one of the most beautiful villages in Spain. It is, without a doubt, an essential stop for all visitors passing through the area.

Going back to the Middle Ages


Streets of Monells. | Shutterstock

You have to start with the name of the village. Monells comes from Villa Mulinnensis, as there used to be many mills in the area. Its main features are the yellowish stone houses, arches and cobblestone floors. Its architecture has Gothic influence and all buildings have potted plants, ivy on the walls or flowers on the balconies, making walking through the streets a pleasure.

Also, the town is built inside an ancient castle of which only its walls are preserved. And, as if that were not enough, the Rissec river, where the aforementioned mills were located, runs through the middle of the village, dividing Monells into two clearly different parts.


Oli Square in Monells. | Shutterstock

One of the spots of the village that best exemplifies its aesthetics is the Arcs street. It is named for its peculiar arches and is one of the most photographed places in Monells. At the end of the street is the Oli Square, which does not exactly look like a square. It is a very photogenic place where a medieval market was held during the 14th and 15th centuries. However, in the late seventeenth century this market was held in the Jaume I square. It became one of the most important markets in Catalonia.

If you want to tour the remains of the wall, it is best to walk along Carrer de Vilanova, where you can see large houses full of vines that star in the photos of tourists. This walk is full of charm. At times, you might think you have gone back in time to the Middle Ages.

A picturesque village


Jaume I square in Monells. | Shutterstock

Looking at the photos, it is possible that many people are familiar with Monells without ever having been there. It is normal: this village was the scene of the acclaimed Spanish film Spanish Affair. Specifically, in the film appears the Jaume I square, a place surrounded by stone houses and full of terraces where you can have a drink. It is easy to imagine that at any moment Dani Rovira and Clara Lago will appear.

Its porches decorated with vines and the arcades where you can stroll while watching the square from different angles stand out. In fact, the photographs will come out very well wherever they are taken, as it is a very photogenic place. As a curiosity, King James I of Aragon ordered to use the mitgera of Monells as a standard of measurement of cereals in the bishopric of Girona.

Speaking of buildings: the most important of the Jaume I square is a 17th century manor house that today is a hotel. One of its peculiarities is that inside its vestibule it has a volta catalana, which is a type of vault partitioned by bricks placed on the flat part.

A lol to see in Monells


Large house in Monells. | Shutterstock

Another point of interest in Monells is located somewhat away from the historic center of the town. It is the Church of Sant Genís, in the Riera neighborhood. It was built in the 11th century and is Gothic in style, with some Baroque details. However, the one that can be seen today is a more modern version of the previous one, since the old one only survived until the beginning of the 14th century. It is a church with a single nave with a diagonal chancel and two side chapels. In its interior it has a ribbed vault and two large human faces sculpted on one of the sides. It also has a bell tower, which was built in the 18th century, but remained unfinished until the early 20th century.

On the other hand, the hermitage of Sant Joan de Salelles is also worth a visit. It is an early Romanesque church, built between the 10th and 11th centuries. They have come to the present in a good state of preservation. Such is its importance that in the Art Museum of Girona there are exposed a reliquary and a lipsanotheca that belonged to this religious building. This hermitage has a single nave with pointed vault and semicircular apse, with two doors, one to the north and the other to the south. Also, its date of construction is known thanks to an opus spicatum in the wall of the nave, which is a type of construction that was used in Ancient Rome and during the Middle Ages.

Other medieval villages just a few minutes from Monells


This is what this village in Girona looks like. | Shutterstock

For those who have fallen in love with Monells, the good news is that near this village there are others where you can get lost walking through its narrow streets. One of them is Peratallada, also of medieval origin and full of cobbled streets. The other is Pals, where in addition to many elements of the Middle Ages, there is a beautiful beach.

In short, Monells is a town of just 200 inhabitants where you can enjoy an authentic medieval village that transports visitors back several centuries. Moreover, it is only 30 minutes by car from Girona, and an hour and a half from Barcelona.

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